Have you noticed how much pressure there is on student to achieve in school? There is so much pressure to get top marks that often the goal of education is lost. The focus becomes memorization and test taking rather than learning, growing and finding your talents, passions and personal goals. It’s easy to forget that students work up to their potential when they are passionate about the subject matter they are studying. Not everything your students study is going to be something they are excited about, but using passion projects can help your students learn to love learning. And once they are passionate about learning, the whole world opens up to them. Discover how passion projects can change your classroom and help students realize their potential.
Inspiring Passion and Drive in Students
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What are passion projects?
Passion projects are known by different names in different educational settings and schools. Whether it’s called Genius Hour, 20% time, or any other project-based learning term, essentially passion projects are all about student choice.
Novel idea, isn’t it?
The idea that students get to choose what they learn.
See, when we give students input into what they learn, they become invested. Investment means they are putting a bit of themselves into their education. They become engaged. They look forward to learning and want to learn.
A far cry from what most classrooms face with a sea of disinterested, apathetic students.
The one thing a Passion Project is not, is an assignment that is graded and judged. As soon as you bring in structure, too many rules and grades, passion projects will lose their power.
So how does a Passion Project work?
It can take a few forms depending on how you are setting up your lessons and where your students are at. That’s one of the things I love about this, it is completely adaptable to the needs of your program but most of all your students.
With my students I love to encourage them to pick a subject they are curious about. It could be engineering, genetics, horses, cars, or a major event from history. Whatever it is, I want it to be something that makes their eyes sparkle when they talk about it.
Your student then thinks of a question to research that cannot be answered with a simple internet search. Or perhaps a project to tackle.
Similar to a science fair project, they are then encouraged to read and compile research. Do experiments and projects. The goal at the end is to create something to share. This may be a physical or digital project, or it could be a presentation.
Passion projects can make a difference in the world
If your student is struggling to come up with their passion project idea and question, you can ask them a simple question.
What is wrong that needs to be fixed?
You can ask them what they would like to change about the world, their school or classroom, their neighborhood, or anything else related to their area of interest. This can become the basis for their own passion project. For example, if a student said it bothers them that people litter, their question may be, “How can I decrease littering in my community?”
Or maybe they are interested in exploring some lesser known figures from major historical events and sharing their stories.
Passion projects make BIONIC kids!
This type of project-based learning is not easy. In fact, your students may fail during their passion project process. They are researching difficult questions, and the answers may not come easy. Think of it like a mini collegiate research project. They may not be doing full-fledged literature reviews, but they are really trying to solve problems and explore learning on a deeper level. This may mean that they will encounter obstacles along the way.
Passion projects fuel a growth mindset and help kids understand how to be BIONIC. BIONIC kids say, “Believe It Or Not, I Can!” even when things get tough.
Passion projects build community
Allowing your students to share what they care about helps them feel invested in each other’s classwork unlike a worksheet or a packet. Set up a time at the end of the term to have students share their projects. Many of their projects will still be ongoing, but it’s important for classmates (along with other teachers, administrators, and parents) to see what students care about. Passion projects can bring new friendships to students who find they have like interests. They can also bring classrooms together by encouraging each other to pursue their passions!
Students may also find new passions through the work of their peers. Working together they may want to tackle even bigger projects.
Overtime passion projects can grow into incredible, world changing projects.
Passion projects can change classroom culture by focusing on bigger problems that can truly make a difference when students speak out and research how to fix things. Young people like William Kamkwamba or Greta Thunberg speak out about their passions and make waves. Your students can start doing this on a classroom level, but who knows how far they can go in making a difference and changing your classroom.
The greatest benefit of doing Passion Pursuits with your children is that it will teach them a love of learning, give them an insatiable curiosity, and a drive to learn. Something that will set them up for incredible success in life.
So what are you waiting for, give Passion Pursuits a try in your lessons and watch your kids become BIONIC!